SEAT Leon ST
by Andy Enright
With 587-litres of luggage space and riding on the same MQB chassis as the Volkswagen Golf Mk 7, the SEAT Leon ST estate offers sharp handling, excellent build quality, solid practicality and some great toys at prices around £1,300 less than an equivalent Golf. It’s hard to grumble at that sort of deal.
Received wisdom dictates that the bigger the engine in your Leon, the better it would be and that was true until fairly recently.
The ST models are powered by more modestly-sized powerplants with one of the highlights being a 1.2-litre petrol lump. All the engines in the line-up feature direct injection and turbocharging, and have been engineered for efficiency.
The 1.6 TDI generates 105PS and 250Nm of torque. The extensively reengineered 2.0 TDI develops 150PS and 320Nm of torque.
Your dealer will also take orders for the 1.2 TSI in two versions with 86PS, a 1.4 TSI with 122PS and at the top of the petrol range, an FR model with a 1.8 TSI with 180PS which utilises a combination of direct and manifold injection.
The diesel line-up swells with the 1.6 TDI with 90PS and a powerful, range-topping 2.0 TDI with 184PS. It delivers a maximum torque of 380Nm.
Depending on the engine, transmission options range from five and six-speed manual gearboxes or the twin-clutch six and seven-speed DSG sequential gearboxes.
The chassis of the SEAT Leon is simple in its architecture with MacPherson strut front suspension, while the rear uses torsion beam suspension for engines up to 150PS.
Go for a more powerful model and you then get a multi-link rear set-up that’s a bit more geared towards performance driving.
Like its hatchback sibling, the Leon ST is built on the Volkswagen Group’s Modularer Querbaukasten architecture which, in layman’s terms means it’s built on the same chassis as an Audi A3 and the next generation Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf.
This modular layout allows the company to alter wheelbases and track widths to suit different cars. So they’ve adjusted the wheelbase of this model to allow for a bit more space? Er, no.
It has the same wheelbase as the five-door hatch but the ST gains an extra 27cm at the back, for a total length of 4.54m.
So, the big question. Just who would buy a SEAT Leon ST over the standard five-door hatch? After all, that car’s hardly a vehicle that forces you to pack just a pair of drawers and a toothbrush for a weekend away, delivering 380-litres of boot space with the rear seats in place.
The 570-litres you get in this ST certainly aces that and it’s about what you’d get if you opted for a full-size saloon like a VW Passat.
In other words, you get the practicality of a big car with the easy parking and jinky manoeuvrability of a much smaller one.
Perhaps there’s the answer to our initial question. With some great engines, a design that’s bang up to date and a shape that doesn’t instantly appear as if you’ve started down the slippery slope to pipe and slippersville, the SEAT Leon ST has a whole lot going for it.
If you need an estate but wouldn’t want to be seen dead in one, there is an alternative to a small SUV. You’re looking at it right here, but let’s keep it between us, right?
FACTS AT A GLANCE
CAR: SEAT Leon ST range
PRICES: £16,670-£23,635 - on the road [est]
INSURANCE GROUPS: 13-29 [est]
CO2 EMISSIONS: tba
PERFORMANCE: [1.2 TSI] Max Speed 117mph/0-62mph 10.5s [est]
FUEL CONSUMPTION: [1.6 TDI Ecomotive] (combined) 72 mpg [est]
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Six airbags, 3-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners, ESP stability control
WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE? Length/width/height mm 4530/1816/1450